City Spotlight:: Raise a Glass to Literary Greenwich Village
There was a time when, throwing back a pint or two at McSorley’s or Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village, you’d be likely to rub elbows with the likes of e.e. cummings, Jack Kerouac or Washington Irving. This month, we take you on a tour of legendary literary watering holes in the Village. We plan to pay an actual visit during our Publishing Business Conference Pub Crawl. Who knows, we may stumble across a future bestselling author!
The Birth of the Bohemians
With bestsellers in mind, perhaps the most famous literary hangout is the White Horse Tavern on 567 Hudson Street. This pub gained popularity during the bohemian movements of the 1950s and 60s. Originally the White Horse played host to longshoremen, but the lure of inexpensive booze soon drew the likes of Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson, Jane Jacobs and Jack Kerouac. Kerouac was banned from the White Horse Tavern on several occasions, but that did not stop him from frequenting the institution, along with Beat cohorts Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.
The most notorious patron of the White Horse was poet and writer Dylan Thomas, who initially discovered this haunt. Essentially taking up residence at the tavern, Thomas was often found downing shots of whiskey while vehemently debating poetry and politics of the day. In 1953, it is said that Thomas's voracity went a bit too far and he consumed 18 shots of whiskey, dying two days later. Whether White Horse whiskey did the poet in or not, one can still find a plaque above the bar commemorating Thomas's final drink there.
The White Horse Tavern became an important locale for the editors of the Village Voice as well. Voice founders Ed Fancher, Dan Wolf, John Wilcock and Norman Mailer often met at the White Horse to talk business. Eventually, the men established offices only a few blocks from the tavern. The Pulitzer prize-winning paper is still an active part of the Village community, reporting on local and national politics, art, culture, film, theater and music.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.